To You, Who Never by M. Ann Hull
To You, Who Never
Associate poetry editor Sarah Bates on today's bonus poem: How do we get from broken to beauty? Find hope in the hurt? Hull’s “To You, Who Never” takes us through moments never shared, memories she carries around like bags of sand and shows us how, still, we go on: through the lyric, the letting go, and the love we find along the way.
Father, I have hammered your coffin together.
I’ve given it a wooden handle to slip my fingers into
yours—you, who never grasped my hand
to cross a street. I’ve been writing letters to slide into
the pockets of photographed shirts. When you die,
will there be a window with an ocean in it?
Each year, I sketch another line onto your photographed face,
so I will recognize—you, who never ages—what time can do.
I have carved a name I will not even whisper
into pieces of slate. When you die, will I weep boats
upon boats for you, who slid my fingers along the creases
of paper sterns, you who held my wrist so I would skip
the stone straight? I pray what your hands have done—
broke her over and over—other hands undo.
She, who never wept, slept for weeks fathoms deep
and woke as another mother. If there is a window,
the ocean I see won’t seem immeasurable.
Contained like a postcard of the sea, my memories
land along shorelines you showed me sandpipers
fleeing from. Once, you—who could never remember the day
I was born—woke me to watch a sunrise that still rises
even on mornings I refuse to wake for it. I reach
for hands, and one set of fingers falls across me like waves
that will not break. My lover who holds me,
even fathoms deep. When he goes, I will weep broken oars,
and my boat will spin its sorrows or I will drift
out to sea. When you die, he will walk me along the thought
of a beach, through all the static that waves leave behind,
leaving you, who never stopped walking away from me.
I have brought a coffin to be carried out with the tide.
M. Ann Hull has had work published in 32 Poems, Barrow Street Journal, Mid-American Review, and Quarterly West amongst others. She has won the Ed Ochester Award for Poetry and the Academy of American Poets Prize. She is a former poetry editor of Black Warrior Review and holds an MFA from the University of Alabama.